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Narrative medicine

Using narrative in consultations enhances understanding of patients’ experiences

  • By: Brian Hurwitz, Annie Cushing, Ben Chisnall
  • Published: 09 May 2012
  • DOI: 10.1136/sbmj.e2743
  • Cite this as: BMJ 2012;20:e2743

Medical students and doctors use narrative skills on a daily basis. Taking a history from a patient, summarising a case for senior colleagues, and recording or reading a patient’s notes all require the construction of a meaningful chronological sequence, with important events included and less important ones omitted. Similarly, when doctors compare and contrast clinical presentations and cases from their own experiences, write up case reports, or document patients’ own accounts, they rely on narrative to structure their thoughts and conclusions.12345 Narrative medicine is the name given to the practice of medicine with an awareness of the centrality of narrative. From this focus, students and doctors are able to benefit from understanding the various ways in which narratives are structured and used in clinical settings.

Narrative is the form in which concerns about health are framed by patients, relatives, and healthcare staff in clinical conversations, presentations, and medical case reports.

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